Released - February 26, 2019
The Center City District operates three parks that it leases long-term from the City of Philadelphia. All three were underused or derelict spaces when the CCD took them on: Cret Park, 16th and the Parkway (2005), Sister Cities Park in Logan Square (2010) and Dilworth Park on the west side of City Hall (2012). At the time, there were no plans or proposed money in the City’s budget to enhance these places.
Background: At all three sites, CCD took on the responsibility to pay for design, secure public approvals, raise capital, oversee construction, and assume costs for cleaning, security, landscaping, operating systems, insurance, programming and repairs. This relieved the City of the overwhelming share of regular operating costs, allowed it to devote scarce resources to other neighborhoods and enabled the public to enjoy three new parks.
At Dilworth Park, CCD raised $55 million, including federal, state, foundation and private funds, plus $15 million in loans backed by CCD assessments on properties within the District. The park opened in 2014, providing a first-class, accessible gateway to the SEPTA transit system. It has grown into a year-round destination that welcomed more than 10.8 million visitors in 2018.
Dilworth Park Operations: To ensure Dilworth is clean, safe and attractive, CCD provides staffing for continuous litter and graffiti removal, landscape maintenance, snow-removal, 24-hour security and dedicated park staff to insure safe use of public space. We maintain water quality in the fountains and supportive mechanical systems. Park management creates jobs for dozens of workers, 47% of whom are African-American, 10% Latino, 6% Asian; 90% of full-time workers live in the city; 31% of contracted services are with minority-owned firms .
Public Events: Dilworth Park is open to the public 365 days a year. In 2018, on almost half of those days CCD presented free musical performances, free movies, free exercise classes, a neighborhood arts celebration, fine arts and craft fair, children’s holiday promotion in partnership with SEPTA, holiday market, free holiday light show and a free skating promotion for the month of February. In total, 92% of all events in 2018 were free and all were open to the public. CCD also collaborates with and promotes local arts and cultural groups. All these programs, events and services cost money, money that does not come from the City’s budget.
Dilworth Revenues: Through its lease with the City, CCD defrays operating costs from revenues raised within the park from licenses, fees, sponsorships, advertising and events. These include revenues from the existing café, sponsorship to underwrite the cost of free movies, free concerts, the free holiday light show, free Wintergarden and costs to operate the ice rink and heated tent. Revenues also come from advertising in the concourse and from events.
In 2018, Dilworth hosted 79 rental events; 82% were open to the public; 18% were private. Among rental events, 14% received a reduced rate through our Community Access Program, available to charitable organizations offering free events, open to the public and which do not require extensive setup and site logistics. Rents cover the cost of staff who move chairs and tables, sent up tents, musical instruments, catering operations and clean up afterwards. Even with private rental events, during no more than 3.5% of the total operating hours of the park, was any portion closed to the public. At all times during those events, access to public transit and to City Hall is preserved. Every event is coordinated in advance with the City’s Managing Director’s office.
The Economics of Park Management: Providing parks of high quality is not cheap. Traditionally, parks were operated by municipal departments, supported by taxes on residents and businesses. However, given other pressing needs, Philadelphia, like most other cities, looks for partners: friends groups, community groups, nonprofits, foundations and business improvement districts to expand what it is able to do and reduce demands on its operating budget.
When the CCD decided to expand beyond our teal teams providing sidewalk cleaning and public safety, beyond new landscaping, directional signs and pedestrian-scale lighting throughout Center City and take on park management, we sought and received approval from the property owners within the District and from the City, which approves our Five-Year plan and budget.
Through our current plan and budget for 2018-2022, CCD not only funds cleaning, safety, streetscape and marketing services for 233 blocks in Center City, District property owners also help defray the cost of the parks the CCD manages.
In 2018, CCD provided $4.7 million in services to our parks and raised $2.6 million within the three leased premises, meaning District property owners helped defray just over $2 million in operating costs, about 8% of CCD’s total operating budget.
Put differently, the CCD puts all revenue generated from the parks back into maintenance, events and services in those parks, but existing revenues do not begin to cover the full operating costs. We are always looking for new opportunities to support the park’s operating budget as a public amenity, enjoyed by children from across the city who play in the fountain, by workers, residents and students who enjoy our concerts and cafes. CCD constantly checks these priorities with workers, residents, shoppers, visitors and those owners who pay CCD assessments. In our fall, 2018 Customer Satisfaction Survey, 4,640 respondents answered a broad range of questions; 80% indicated they visited Dilworth Park regularly; 89% said our parks are a positive addition to Center City; 9% viewed them as improvements that are not convenient or attractive to them personally, while only 1.7% said they weren’t a good use of CCD resources. In the five years since the park opened, adjacent office buildings have leased up, new residents have moved in and the assessed value of the five properties that front on Dilworth Park has increased by 30%. Parks are quality of life investments that yield more revenue for the School District and the City.
Why a new coffee kiosk? The 620 square foot, walk-up at the southern end will be wrapped with green walls, a green roof and will add back more landscaping than is removed during construction. Why? (1) To buffer the southern end of the park from noisy volumes of traffic on South Penn Square. (2) Our existing café operator, locally owned Brûlée Catering, who will operate the coffee kiosk by entering into a license agreement with Starbucks, is confident demand is sufficient to support the food and coffee establishments around Center Square. Annual visitation in the park has risen from almost zero before construction and by 24% from 8.6 million in 2015, the first full year, to 10.8 million in 2018. (3) We seek more income to support operations of the park. In 2018, CCD raised 62% of the costs for Dilworth Park within the park. District property owners supported the rest. Rather than reduce cleaning, landscaping maintenance and programming and diminish quality, we add a new amenity that everyone is free to patronize or ignore. It takes up 0.5% of the surface of the park in what had been a gravel surface seating area. We are adding more landscaping and keeping the same number of chairs for the public to use.
A Park for Everyone: Philadelphia residents, particularly families, daycare and camp programs for children who come by subway from neighborhoods across the city, have, in less than five years, turned a derelict space into a summertime destination for play in the fountain and a wintertime place for celebration with the free light show. Others enjoy free movies, concerts, exercise classes or play bocce on the lawn. They count on CCD to maintain Dilworth Park as a clean, safe, attractive, and enjoyable place to visit year-round. That is a responsibility we take very seriously and work hard to generate the funds that enable us to fulfill the public’s expectations.
Dilworth Plaza Before Dilworth Park Renovations
Dilworth Park After Renovations
SISTER CITIES PARK
Sister Cities Park Before Renovations
Sister Cities Park After Renovations
Cret Park Before Renovations
Cret Park After Renovations